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Day 1

Bengali film actress Ms. June Maliya flags off South Asian March Against Child Trafficking

Kolkata, 25 February 2007: The world’s largest mass action in the form of a 2500 km South Asian March Against Child Trafficking began today from Kolkata. This has been flagged off by popular Bengali film actress Ms. June Maliya.

Around 200 core marchers from India, Nepal and Bangladesh including 112 children, mostly former victims of human trafficking are taking part in this unique initiative. The march will be passing through Siliguri, Biratnagar (Nepal), Araria, Gorakhpur, Nepalganj (Nepal), Nithari and culminate in Delhi on March 22, 2007. Over 300 public meetings, rallies, street theatres and media events would be organized involving millions of people. The march is being organized by Bachpan Bachao Andolan and Global March Against Child Labour and is supported by several NGOs, Teacher’s Unions, UN agencies like ILO, UNIFEM, UNICEF, UNDP, and UNODC; and over 200 civil society groups in the region including ATSEC, Sanlaap, and A2W2 etc.

June Maliya has strongly condemned child trafficking and appealed to fellow citizens to join hands to stop this social crime.

Kailash Satyarthi, founder of BBA and leader of the march, said “It is shameful that the largest democracy of the world does not have any law against child trafficking for forced labour and unfortunately similar situation exists in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. At least 30% of India’s 10 million bonded children are victims of child trafficking. South Asia is among the most vulnerable regions in the world and is a source, destination and transit for all forms of child trafficking including domestic labour, forced labour, beggary, camel jockeying and child marriages besides prostitution.” Explaining the objectives of the march, he said, “The twin objections of the march are to generate awareness about the most neglected form of child trafficking for forced labour and secondly to demand deterrent legal provisions to stop this fast growing crime; for prosecution and conviction of the culprits and ensure dignified rehabilitation of the victims.”

Speaking at the flagging off ceremony, Ravi Prakash Verma, senior Member of Parliament and member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on trafficking law said “human trafficking is a global tragedy which cannot be accepted in any form. As an MP and the standing committee member, I pledge to make all possible efforts to make trafficking for forced labour illegal.” He also promised to strengthen the mass movement. He said “the march is the true translation of the Gandhian spirit into action in this year of Satyagraha’s centenary.”

Thousands of supporters joined the march in Kolkata with colourful banners and placards chanting slogans- “Stop child trafficking”, “ensure education and rehabilitation of child victims,” “jail is the only place for traffickers”, “dignified rehabilitation of victims is their right”, “make a law to stop trafficking for forced labour” etc. 

A core marcher, Rakesh is a 13 year old boy who was trafficked from his native village in Saharsa, Bihar to a village near Amritsar, Punjab, in 2001. There, he lived a life of a slave along with some other children for five long years. They used to stay in a cow shed and work up to 18 hours everyday. To ensure that they worked longer hours, they were given a drug to keep them awake. Finally, BBA rescued Rakesh and the other children in 2006. Rakesh says: “I cried a lot and missed my mother everyday. I lost any hope of ever meeting her. But when I saw her, I could not even communicate my tale of woe as I had forgotten Maithili, my mother tongue and she couldn’t understand my ‘master tongue’ Punjabi, the only language I speak now.”

15 year old, Nepalese girl marcher, Subiksha lost her father at a young age; therefore she had to live with her uncle. She was abused on her way to Kathmandu by the trafficker who promised her a better life. Now she is living in CWIN, Nepal’s rehabilitation center. She said “We are here to raise public awareness and to demand jail for traffickers.”

Anasuya, a young Bangladeshi girl was kidnapped by a gang of traffickers at a tender age. When she was recovered by the police, she suffered from severe mental trauma and couldn’t sleep for a long period as she had horrifying nightmares. She could gain normalcy only after intensive counseling facilitated by Bangladesh Shishu Adhikar Forum. Another core marcher, a survivor from Sanlaap, Reshma Khatun called upon everyone to support the march.

Manabendra Mandal Chairperson, ATSEC South Asia said “Trafficking is a crime against humanity, be it for commercial sexual exploitation, human organ transplantation, child labour, or for slavery like practices. Let us all join our hands together to combat against this organized crime”.